Impact on Family

Maureen Cavanagh -Maternal Instincts

Maureen Cavanagh is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings, a non profit nationwide peer support group for those affected by substance use disorder. Her memoir, "If You Love Me: a Mother's Journey through her Daughter's Opioid Addiction" was published in September 2018.

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I think as mothers, we feel like it's our job to fix everything because that's what we do. From the time that they're born, we carry them in our bodies and we take care of them.

And fathers feel this way. But I'm a mother and I can only speak from my own experience.

I felt that everything that happens to them because they're vulnerable and they’re children-- it's our duty to make better.

You spend years and years of doing that, and then you come up against something that you can’t fix.

So even if you're trying to do that slow release that we all do when kids become young adults -- when it's something that can kill them?

Well, all bets are off! Then you jump back in there just like if they were two.

Katie always felt like she sort of didn't fit in. And I think a lot of kids feel like that. I believe that drugs made her feel like she fit someplace. That there were doubts and struggles that she had that she numbed with drugs. Before she knew it, some recreational use, some fitting in, turned into addiction. Then she could no longer control whether she wanted to use or not.

So many things happened that she felt like she wasn't worth saving her own life.

This is often how people feel. I work with a lot of people and try to get them help. And there’s this feeling that even if they get well, what's the point? It'll never be what it could have been. They'll never get their relationships back. They'll never get their life back. Sometimes there’s criminal records. Sometimes there's damage to their health. There's all these lost years and what's the point?

At my age now, I know that there was some really low times, and times when I couldn't picture things being any better. And then they were. But these are very often young people that haven’t had that experience yet.

So very often, and it certainly was Katie's case, that she never believed that she could ever have any kind of life worth living again. She got stuck in this cycle of trying desperately to recover. But going down the tubes again, over and over again.

This is something that I couldn't fix. It was not mine to fix.

Katie and I were both on a journey, and for a long time I thought we were on the same journey. And we weren't.

I was on mine and she was on hers.

Although I tried very hard to be on hers with her. And I acted in a variety of crazy ways. Some were helpful and some were not. But you do whatever you think you have to do in order to save your child.

I sectioned her, which is a civil commitment in Massachusetts, when I thought she was beyond getting help herself, and she was a danger to herself.

We once had her arrested in the lobby of a treatment center as she was leaving, so that she wouldn't be able to go back to the person that was putting drugs in her hand.

And I would still do those things again.

But it was hers to fix. And about the time that I realized that, she started to take control of her own recovery.

The thing that helped her is knowing I was there if she needed me. And I armed myself with an unbelievable education in everything I could possibly know about the disease model. So I wouldn't blame her. And it was hard in the beginning because everybody's angry.

I hear people say this, How could they do this to me?

Well, I learned very early on that she was not doing anything to me. She was doing it to herself and if she could stop, she would.

People would ask me, Is what you're doing helping?

And in the very beginning I would probably have said, Of course it's helping! Everything I do is helping because I'm trying to save my child.

And I have to be on high alert all the time.

And I have to answer my phone 24 hours a day because it could be her.

And I have to go through the streets in my car looking for her because that will make the difference -- if she just sees how much I love her. And maybe if she just sees how I'm making myself sick, she'll see how much I care, and then she'll get help.

And that was not true.

I was so consumed. All these thoughts were constantly swimming around in my head. But I know I wasn't doing anybody any good. I was making myself sick and I was ruining everything else in my own life. And I wasn't helping.

And it was really my boyfriend, Randy, who kept saying that to me -- that I'm just like a ghost walking around in my own life. And that’s exactly how I felt.

But I also felt like, this was a problem caused by drugs and I'm not solving it with drugs.

But I just couldn’t get it together. And finally, I gave in, and went and talked to a psychiatrist about medication.

She said to me something that I'll never forget. She said, "The things that have happened to you in the last years, the pressure you’ve been under, the pain that all this has caused -- these things cause chemical changes in your brain. So you may not have needed this before, but you may want to see if it would help now."

I wound up on a small dose of an antidepressant of Zoloft. And it didn't take long. It took a couple of days, and all of a sudden I was having clear thoughts. And I was able to finish a conversation. I was afraid it would make me different, but what it did, it returned me back to myself. And this is what medication is for.

I always tell parents three things: The first is to get educated. To learn everything you can, not only about the resources that are available, but to understand what's going on in your child's brain. And how drugs are keeping them from understanding that they can stop. And that's what happens in addiction is they don't think they can stop.

The next one is to connect with other people, people that can offer you support, and can offer you a direction.

But the third thing: always tell them that you love them. I made a point of every single day of my life somehow getting to her that I loved her. Whether it was a Facebook message or a text message or a phone call that she wouldn't answer and I left a message or what ever it was.

And I never left her without saying that, no matter how hurt I was, because I really never knew if I would get another opportunity. She overdosed over 13 times that I know of. And I knew that no matter how I felt about what was going on, I would never regret that being said.

There’s a hopelessness that comes with this disease. What did I do wrong? What could have been different? What could I change?

And all of those things that we have to learn to put aside, and start every day, as silly as this may sound, with hope that it could be different.

Because it can be different.

And I say that because I see it all the time.

I'm a little delusionally optimistic most of the time anyhow. And I think that's a fabulous quality for what I do. It's exactly what's needed.

You have to have hope that it can be different.

Because if one other person in the world has done it, you can do it too.

I’m Maureen Cavanagh and this is my story.

Isabel Landrum -Working on Myself

Photo courtesy Isabel Landrum

“This is what addiction does. It takes everything from us.” In recovery since, 2015, Isabel Landrum is working on getting her life back as she helps others at a detox and treatment center in Southern California.

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Being an addict is -- it’s just, it’s, it’s hard. Like people don't understand. Like, I wasn't born and I didn't grow up thinking, Oh, I’m going to grow up to be an addict --that’d be great!

No, it just -- it ruins lives, you know. It ruined my life. It took everything I loved from me. I didn't have a relationship with my family, with my mother, like I will go months without talking to my mom. And it, it was very hard for her. And it was sad.

I've been hospitalized three different times. I've been in a coma. I remember when I was taken to the hospital by the ambulance, one of the nurses there, I turned around and I looked at this person, and I grabbed this person, and I said, “Please don’t let me die. I have 3 kids and I don’t -- I don't want to die.”

And I remember when I woke up, he was there. And he said, “Oh, you’re still alive, I didn’t let you die. I didn’t let you die.”

I was tired. I was sick of doing drugs. I wanted a way out.

So back in 2015, I had somebody come to me and ask me if I wanted to go to treatment. I wasn't getting any younger. And I said, “I do. I need help. I want to go to treatment.”

So my clean date is October 10th, 2015. And that was it for me. I’ve, I’ve never looked back.

I wanted to have a life. I didn’t want to be in the hospital all the time. I wanted to have a relationship with my children again. Like, I wanted to have my kids in my life.

Now I talk to my mom every night. I have a wonderful relationship with my mom. I’m working on seeing my children again because my kids are the most important thing in my life, and I haven't been able to see them for a while now.

I have to work on myself, and I have to get myself better before I can have that chance again to be in my kid's lives. I am working towards that right now.

I never used around my kids, you know, like when they were there, I never used around my kids. But, like as soon as they would go with their dad, like I would get high just because there's so much pain there to just see my kids go. I’d just get high because it just numbs you, like you can’t feel anything. You just don’t want to feel anything with all the pain, you know.

I have a boy and two girls. And they are fun kids, you know. My girl, my oldest one, she looks just like me. And I look at their pictures and stuff, and I just, I so want to be part of their life again, you know.

I know I have to like take little steps to get there. But I am doing it. I'm doing it now. And if I was still out using and stuff, this would not be happening. I would not be on my way to see them again, you know.

It’s hard, and I know it’s going to take a while, but this is what addiction does. It takes everything from us.

So now, it's my turn to give back to people. I found what I like to do, and that's help others to recover from addiction. It’s such a good feeling when you know that you helped someone not pick up that drug, you know, like just if you can stay here with us, stay just one more day -- it's going to be okay, you know, just…

That’s what God put me on this Earth to do -- be a mom, of course --and help other people recover from addiction.

And my name is Isabel Landrum and this is my story.

Karen McGinnis -What God Gave Me

Photo courtesy Karen McGinnis

At age 37, after 20 years of battling the disease of addiction, Karen McGinnis found a reason to make a change and make it work: the birth of her son.

 "I’m a single, independent, fully self-supporting woman today. And it’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced because there was a time in my life where I took advantage of the system. And I have overcome all of that."

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You know they say that the disease of addiction is greater than the love that a mother has for her child. I intellectually understood that, but I didn’t feel it until it was happening to me.

But at the age of 35, God said to me, “I have carried you through some storms. I’ve put angels around you to protect you all those nights that you were driving in a blackout and you were walking the streets homeless. You’ve had one DUI, you’ve had two DUI’s, you’ve had three DUI’s. You’ve lost great jobs, you’ve lost your soul, you’ve lost your family. You’ve -- you are going to kill yourself. Or you’ve going to end up in prison. So I’m about to do something for you. It’s going to be very tangible. And it’s going to give you a reason to want to live.”

So I had my first child when I was 36 years old. By the time Owen was a couple months old, DCF stepped in – the Department of Children and Families. I was an unfit mother. So he was removed from my care. And I was left with an opportunity to go into the drug courts and work on Karen so I could get my son back.

I was headed down that spiral for 20 years. I started drinking alcohol at the age of 14. The alcohol led to street drugs. The street drugs led to opioids and doctor shopping and -- I had for 10 years already been in and out of treatment centers, and halfway houses, and structured living, and jail and .. you know, so what was so different this time? Because I was still addicted to drugs and alcohol and I still loved my alcohol and drugs more than I loved this beautiful little child that God had blessed me with.

I kicked and screamed and finally went into treatment for a good solid 6 months of inpatient and a couple months of outpatient. And I did everything I could to get Owen back. I fixed the outside. I went and got a great job. I got insurance. I got a nice, fancy Camaro. And it looked real pretty on the outside because I wanted my son back.

And I got him back. But what I failed to do is, I failed to work on Karen. I failed to take a look at what was really going on. What is causing me to continually and insanely – knowing that there is going to be significant consequences, whether it’s loss of marriage, loss of child, loss of job, arrest – still continue to pick up that substance and start the cycle all over again?

I did not do a lick of work on Karen. I did not work a 12-step program. I didn’t reach out to my higher power. I didn’t build a network. I -- I just fixed everything real pretty on the outside, got my son back, went back to work, and before you know it, life started showing up. I started getting stressed out at work. I was stressed out being a single mother, a lot of resentment still towards Owen’s father, a lot of anger. Before I knew it, I found myself at the liquor store.

One is too many, a thousand is never enough. When I put that substance of whatever it is in my system, it sets off a chemical reaction within me and I start the obsession and the compulsion and I want more. Trying to fill that void, trying to find that high.

You know within a couple of days I was a no-call no-show at work. My parents ended up coming to my apartment and found me, naked on the couch with empty bottles of Crown Royal. And my father called DCF again. And Owen was removed from me.

So now we are at Owen is not quite even two years old yet and DCF has already removed him from my care twice. That wasn’t enough to stop me. How did this happen? I was so guilty and shameful, I was off on a mission to really kill myself for the next three months, drinking and overdosing and driving drunk and…

Finally, my parents stepped in and here in the state of Florida we have what’s called a Marchman Act. If you have a loved one that is using substances and you know that they are a threat to themselves or the community, you can take it down to the courthouse and get the law involved. And the law did get involved.

Judge Espinoza who is our drug court judge here in Tampa, he ordered me to go back into treatment. I knew that was my saving grace. That, hey you know what? My parents do still care about me. They care enough about me that they were willing to go down to the courthouse to save my life. They might not be talking to me right now, and I might think that they hate me but they love me. And they saved my life by doing that.

This works if you work it. Recovery is possible. There is hope.

I wanted to start from a fresh clean slate at 37 years old because Owen was the only thing I’ve ever done perfect in my life. And I refuse to let the disease of addiction take that from me too.

And I went back into treatment and I started following suggestions. You know we learn from behaviors over, over time on how to get what we want as addicts. And someone had told me, “Karen, if you could just use those skill sets in a positive way, you will be amazing.”

A large part of recovering is being surrounded by people who are like-minded; people that have gone through what you’ve gone through. Yes, we come from all very diverse backgrounds, and some of us are tall and short and fat and skinny. And some of us are Hispanic and Caucasian and African-American and Chinese but we all have one common thread: the disease of addiction. You know, I think it’s so important for us to come together and, and build those relationships with other people that know what we’re going through so we can feel like hey, you’re not alone, you’re not different, you’re not unique.

And that is one of the reasons that I work in the field that I work in. Because I can empathize with what you, ma’am, are going through, sitting on my couch in my admissions office. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there 15 times, sitting on that couch with my mom and dad or my husband sitting over there so I understand what you, husband and mother and father are going through.

I do this because life is rich. And life is a gift. And we have to stay in the present. This is a wonderful life.

I’m a single, independent, fully self-supporting woman today. And it’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever experienced because there was a time in my life where I took advantage of the system. I took advantage of Medicaid. I took advantage of food stamps. I took advantage of my mother and father. I took advantage of men. I took advantage of people to get what Karen wanted. And I have overcome all of that.

Never did I ever think at 12 years old, that I was going to be 40 years old, a single mom, and have lived the life that I live. And I’m so grateful, so grateful I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through to find what I found.

And I believe that God will allow us to go through that, to get to a point in our lives to where we have no other choice but to cry out for Him to help us.

And, and, I’ve – I’ve made a mess of my life and I believe that there is something greater than myself that can restore me back to sanity and give me the life that You always intended me to have.

And that is something to be grateful for.

My name is Karen McGinnis and this is my story.

Kim Manlove -Surviving the Worst Loss

Photo by Rocky Rothrock, courtesy Kim Manlove

Grief is an individual experience. When the Manloves' son David died from a drug-related event, Kim's feelings of guilt and shame overwhelmed him  -- but it did not divide him from his wife and together they have found acceptance.     

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You know, we first discovered that he had a problem in late 2000. He was 16 at the time.

It started with marijuana and then eventually alcohol. There were some pills. We didn’t know what they were -- pharmaceuticals of some sort.

We got our son into treatment, and while he was getting help, we were getting some education about the disease of addiction, that it was chronic, that there was also could be a genetic component. And that it could be deadly.

But we of course didn’t think anything about that. We just concentrated on supporting our son in every way that we could.

We began 2001 with a lot of hope. About five months into treatment, he had been doing well and we had been pleased with his progress, and so he came to us on one day and asked if he could go swimming at a friend’s house. We knew the kids he was going to be swimming with, and he’d been doing well, so we decided to kind of lessen the reins a little bit, and said sure.

They swam for a while, and then the girls decided to go in and have lunch. David then and his friend went to a nearby drug store, bought a can of computer duster. David had learned somehow that he could inhale the propellant, which would give him a very brief high, anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds, and it wouldn’t show up on the drug screens. I don’t think he knew is that in some cases computer duster can cause something called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, a disruption of the electrical activity of the heart, and can also bring on a heart attack.

They were passing the can back and forth, taking turns, going underneath the water. And then at one point, David didn’t come back up. He’d gone into Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome while he was underneath the water. His body’s first reaction, naturally, was to try and take a breath. He opened his mouth and took in all water.

The main cause of death was drowning. The secondary cause of death was Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome.

While the EMTs were there, the parents had called my wife. So Marissa drove to the hospital, and by that time, he was already gone.

I was actually a couple of thousand miles away in Phoenix, Arizona. I got the call from her saying that he was – had died. I rushed to the airport. This is before 9/11. I basically told the ticket counter what had happened. And they -- they were great. They didn’t ask for any documen-tation or anything. I mean they could tell that I was distressed, and immediately put me on the first plane directly back to Indianapolis. And so --- but that, that was -- that flight was the worst. Just so much going on in my head.

The addiction gene ran on my side of the family. I had two uncles who had -- were alcoholic on my father’s side, and I was someone who overindulged on a regular basis. I had already pledged to my wife that I would know how to help him and get through this, and I failed at that. Between the grief and the guilt, you know, I began to spiral down myself, drinking more alcohol and then I began also abusing the anti-depressants that I was being prescribed for the grief and the guilt and the depression. To the point where I began shopping doctors for the medications. I had a tragic story. It was pretty easy for me to go to another physician and share the same story and immediately get a script for Xanax.

One day, my wife and my son, my other son, my older son, came home and found me in a blackout. And I can still remember coming out of that blackout seeing, you know, my wife screaming at me and saying, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

I said, “I’m in trouble. I’ve been abusing alcohol and drugs, and I think I need to get help.”

My situation was so serious that I ended up having to come in-patient at that point in time.

Part of the recovery regimen, too, was going to 90 meetings in 90 days, and I ended up doing 180 meetings in 180 days. And I’ve been in recovery now for 15 years and I still do 5 or 6 meetings a week. That’s the medicine that I continue to take for my disease of addiction. And the dollar that I put in the basket at each of those meetings is a lot cheaper than the prescription drugs I take.

I’m an academic by training. Spent 28 years as an administrator and dean at the largest university here in Indianapolis. But a couple of years after I got into recovery, I started kind of a new chapter. I went to the CEO of the treatment center and told her that I’d be interested in getting some profession experience in this field of addiction treatment and recovery.

And so we started a parent support group. There’s no question that the death of a child is the worst loss. What we found was, you know, we didn’t have to do counseling in that group. The counseling took place just by people sharing where they were, what they were struggling with, and then hearing others sharing exactly the same things in a same way, and found comfort there for the first time.

After David died, friends, family, and even people that we hadn’t been acquainted with, came to us and often started off by saying, “Well, what went wrong?” you know. And sometimes it would be a little more pointed, you know: “Were there some things that you didn’t do?”

Our children aren’t supposed to die before us. It’s like a violation of some sort of rule. What went wrong? What could we have done differently? All that kind of mental machination is part of what led to my serious depression, and frankly, trying to find relief from the shame, and the guilt – probably more the guilt. Again, because the addiction gene ran on my side of the family. He caught this from me.

We learn in recovery that acceptance is the release of all hope for a better past. That’s become our mantra. And that then has freed us up emotionally and psychologically, and brought us to the point where we can help others, at least try, to work down that path.

I describe our mutual recoveries as kind of what a strand of DNA looks like. DNA has two trunks. I’m one of the trunks and she’s the other trunk. They’re separate and distinct but there are branches periodically that connect those two trunks. And that’s what recovery has done for us. It’s connected us in some marvelous ways.

But at the same time, if you look under a microscope, DNA kind of spirals around. That’s what life continues to do to us is that it continues to spiral us around. And we continue to have challenges and things happen to us. But there is still that tightness and structure of us together.

The most important thing recovery has done for the two of us is that it has allowed us to -- to move on from the worst loss and celebrate our son’s life in a beautiful way.

My name is Kim Manlove and this is my story.

Lisa Curtin -My Mom Was Addicted

In the late 1990s, Lisa Curtin's mother read about a new drug called Oxycontin, and then nothing was ever the same for Lisa or her family.

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All through our years of growing up, my brother and myself, my mother struggled with alcohol before she got addicted to drugs.

My earliest memory is when I was about 6 years old, and my brother who’s eighteen months younger than me, was four and a half, you know, she was on a bender, just drinking like crazy, my father was traveling. She told my brother and I to pack our clothes. We were going to have to live in an orphanage because my brother and I were fighting with one another and she couldn’t handle it.

She literally made us go pack our clothes. A stranger came to the house to pick us up. She put us in a car with the stranger and the stranger took us to a grocery store parking lot. And in the grocery store parking lot, he just turned to us and said, “You know, you just have to start listening to your mom. She’s just sort of at her wits’ end, and if you don’t listen to your mom then you know, you’re not going to be able to live there anymore.” He brought us back to our house then.

And I don’t for one minute doubt that my mother loved myself and my brother. I don’t doubt that at all. But I realize that you can’t compete against a bottle of vodka. You cannot compete against whisky. And you can’t compete against prescription drugs. It just doesn’t happen.

When she was around 50, she diagnosed herself and convinced a couple of doctors at the time that she had fibromyalgia. This was her ticket to freedom. Very difficult to diagnose. She was smart enough to figure out ways to pretend that different pain points in her body when touched would be sensitive to that touch, and she then started to get prescription drugs.

It started with Vicodin, at first. Because sometimes she would not eat, physical things would actually happen, like she would actually trip.

One time she, you know, broke a toe on her foot. My mother, my daughter, Amber, and I were going on a trip together on a plane ride. She was on a crutch and her toe was casted and we get to Alabama, and my mother forgot her medication at home.

So, when we were in the hotel room, she unwrapped her toe, reinjured it which then caused us to spend a good portion of the time in the emergency room so that she could have another x-ray on her foot and get pain medication. Now she’s got you know, a supply at home and now she’s got a supply while we were on vacation so when she gets home she has a great party ahead of her because she’s got all this medicine.

The things that she did, the way she sort of manipulated situations to be able to get what she needed to get is no different that someone who is on a corner, you know, looking for a way to be able to get a quick fix.

All through my mother’s fifties, she struggled with some sort of illness, one way or another, that was causing her to get prescription medication. And then my father had his stroke. So the year would have late ‘96. My mother met a doctor – and I’m getting chills just thinking about it right now – who turned her on to Oxycontin and that’s when it really just started to go down.

At first, it seemed to be like good for her, in that she didn’t seem to be in pain and she had a better frame of mind, and she was gentler toward my dad and more sympathetic toward my father’s situation. But after awhile, she would just track when she would take her pills, and I have 3x5 cards of her handwriting of how she was like monitoring when she was taking the prescription medication, because I think she was trying to convince herself that she wasn’t actually taking more than she should. But she was. And it was an endless supply.

This also started a trend where she would overdose on a fairly regular basis. At least five times which usually was she took too much of her Oxycontin, she didn’t eat. Once in awhile she would mix it with alcohol. She’d go to the emergency room. I’d get a call and I’d get there, and I’d say to the doctor, or the emergency room physician, you know, “Test her blood alcohol count or test her for, you know, morphine or whatever. Just test her for something because I’m sure that she’s overdosed. It’s not that she just fell or that she’s disoriented.” And she would deny it, you know, she was always in denial about this. Constantly in denial.

Sure enough, you know, the next day they’d come back with test results and her blood alcohol count was really high or the presence of opioids in her system was really high. But still the doctor continued to prescribe them to her.

There was a time when my mother overdosed. I walk into the emergency room. I could hear my mother’s voice asking for morphine, that she was in pain, I want this, I want this, I want this drip. And they ended up giving her the drip. But then I went back to her apartment. I found thirty–seven prescription bottles of medication from four different doctors. Most of them had like one or two pills in them. But all either for Vicodin or Oxycontin.

And I brought all that medication to the hospital. And when I saw her doctor, I showed him. =I go, “This is what you’re dealing with. =She’s going between Illinois and Wisconsin. She’s going across the state borders to get medication.” And the doctor who I think was the worst influence in her life, you know, he just seemed to ignore it. He didn’t think it was like that big of a deal.

All I think about from the time I was 6 years old and I’m 58 years old now, that’s a long time, that’s 52 years of trying to figure out how the hell to take care of a woman who doesn’t know how to take care of herself, or anyone else, and refuses to get help.

The memory of all this stuff that went on with her still lives with me every single day. Every single day.

My mother passed away in 2006. It was actually my grandsons’ second birthday. I had gone to the doctor with her two weeks prior. And I told the doctor once again that my mother’s best day of her month is when she comes to see you, to get her prescription refilled. The doctor said to me, “Well, you know, your mom’s in pain. And she – you know, I don’t think this is an addiction. You know, this isn’t a drug that’s addicting.”

And I said, “She doesn’t even eat. She’s either falling in the bathroom or she’s falling, you know, in the living room or whatever. When they take her to the hospital you end up coming there, and she gets what she needs. So she’s figured out a way to get a fix until she can get the next prescription filled. This is a pattern and you’re not helping at all. I’m like powerless to do anything about it.”

The doctor still filled her prescription. And the twins’ second birthday was coming up. nd so she was going to come with us, and I was really excited that week because I thought, Ok, that would be great. You know, she’s going to come. This is going to be wonderful for her. And she called and said that she wasn’t able to make it. She wasn’t feeling very well.

I just had this weird feeling all day long. I tried calling her several times. I couldn’t reach her. She did end up calling me back, and she said, "I just want to lay around anyways, I don’t feel good." And I said, "Well, okay, we’ll talk on Monday."

So Monday came and Monday night came, and I still -- I hadn’t heard from her and I kept calling her. Finally, I called the apartment building that she was living in and I asked them to do a ‘check well-being’ on her.

She was gone. She was gone.

And I’m like Okay. I was at work and it didn’t really even sink in, you know. In a way it was sort of like, She’s gone so it’s like relief. But I know that sounds terrible.

But on the other hand it was like Oh my God, my mom’s gone and I never could fix her. I could never get her to understand herself. I couldn’t even get her to understand me. She didn’t even get that.

Nobody has ever once been on my sidelines except for my kids saying, You can do it! You can move forward. You know, we’ve got your back. And I wanted my mom to do that, and she couldn’t. And then I couldn’t save her either.

And so, you know, on the day when I’m having a good time with my twins’ birthday party, when they’re two, she’s laying in her bed, dying.

We got the autopsy results, and she died of morphine toxicity. The last year of her life was all about going to the doctor. You know, I took my pill this morning and so, I feel better and you know, I’ll take another one a little bit later today.

That’s all it was. Every single thing was about that particular pill which made her life so much better than everybody and everything else around her.

If I was able to sit in the front of the doctor today, I would like to say to him: If family members are involved in the patient’s life, and they’re telling you the best day in that patient’s life is the day they get to come and see you because they know they’re going to get their prescription refilled, and how this is destroying, actually, the entire person that’s sitting in front of you, that is your patient -- it would be really great if you could just listen.

*And I don’t know if the motivation for writing the prescription is related to great incentives for doctors. I don’t know if that’s the reason.

I don’t know if you really felt sympathetic to my mother because you thought that she really was in pain. However you really only saw her for like seven minutes a month, so you didn’t really know her.

And maybe it was just the time, late 90’s, early 2000’s. Maybe enough wasn’t known. I don’t know. Although I find that hard to believe because it’s highly addictive even though it was toted originally not to be.

It would just have been nice if you just would have listened.*

My name is Lisa Curtin and this is my story.